An Indigenous Water Management System, the case of Borana (Oromo) People

  By Dassuu Duulaa, (Wageningen University-Department of Social Science)

Generally, it can be concluded that water has decisive roles in the socio-economic and politics of the Borana people. Plural but non-negotiated (uncompromised) legal forms over natural resources management and property rights arrangements are visible in the Borana pastoral communities. The societies devised indigenous institutions, social organizations and power structures through which it used to adapt to water and pasture scarcities and drought for centuries.

The Gadaa institution has a function of legitimizing and maintaining the social principles, norms, order and rules in the sense that it sanctioned the tenure rights and governance system of the indigenous societies. Claiming access and property rights over water sources and pasture have a direct connection to exercising power and authority of this institution. The effectiveness of the customary resource regulation and tenure rights arrangement systems is strongly tied to kinships and social networks within the clan. There is a way in which the states laws penetrated and restructured the normative laws and order, and at the same time there is a means in which the customary principles and order resisted the statutory laws.

The amendment of customary governance and property rights arrangements over natural resources and cultural values of the society by the Ethiopian governments have resulted in cleft and conflicts among diverse stakeholders in the zone. The state laws officially vested power and authority to the governmental politico-legal institutions to regulate the governance and tenure rights over resources. However, they have no any legitimizing effect on the Gadaa institution and its normative forms. The states’ politico-legal institutions and governance policies are more supported by the non-indigenous stakeholders. Though both the customary and statutory laws and property rights are not legally legitimized each other, both have roles in the lives of the Borana pastoralists. NGOs, private ranches, and international institutions are also the actors in the issues of natural resource. Theoretically, private property rights can better maintain natural resources. Yet, in the Borana context, it can be argued that neither the private nor the public tenure rights worked out.

The study showed that a largest portion of the Borana landscape is better protected under the customary management and property rights systems. The traditional institutions and practices are emerged to be eroded because individuals (including the indigenous people) have legal alternatives to maintain their best possible advantages. So far, the customary legal system has significant roles in all lives of the pastoralists. Climate change, political marginalization and human population increase are the other factors that affect the indigenous practices of the people. The introduction of technologies and modern education to the area could help them look for opportunities that to cope with climate change, scarcity and pressure exerted on resources or social, technological and economic changes came to them by the external actors.

187891 Gadaa and Water

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